MLB Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Saturday, September 30th

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MLB schedule today has 16 games

We’ve reached Day 186 of 187 that it takes to play the MLB season. It is a long and sometimes arduous grind that begins in March and runs all the way until October. There are two days left to decide the remaining playoff races and set the MLB draft order for the upcoming June draft.

 

It has been a particular sort of grind this season. The results were not good and I realized that a number of stats and factors that I incorporate into my handicapping may not carry as much weight or merit. I expected that hard-hit contact would be more penal this season because a lot of it is to the pull side and the shift was removed this year. That would prove to be an incorrect assumption, as this year’s .204 batting average on pulled grounders ranks sixth in the Statcast era, though it was higher than 2020, 2021, and 2022.

I’ve also been somebody to look at the grander body of work, but with all of the technology afforded to teams these days, I feel like smaller sample sizes may be more effective due to the level of adjustments that pitchers can make by diving into the data. Recent form is worth more than looking at season-long regression signs.

Handicapping bullpens did not seem to be nearly as much of a strength as I felt it would be, as relievers posted their highest collective ERA since the 2020 COVID year and highest for a full season since 2019 when the ball was juiced. There is simply a lot of volatility in that role, and while I’ve always used it as justification for making full-game bets, maybe derivatives and player props are much more effective ways to handicap games for me. I feel like I was overconfident in my ability to use that as a weapon in my arsenal and won’t make the same mistake next season.

It isn’t the reason why it was a losing season, but grading against DraftKings odds is definitely a hindrance. Their spread on MLB games is higher than the majority of the market and FanDuel is the only legal, multi-state U.S. book with similar spreads on games. Midway through the season, DraftKings switched up their MLB numbers to add more of a theoretical hold to their sides and totals by taking 20-cent, 25-cent, 30-cent, etc. lines and adding a few more cents of vig to the house edge. In general, they are one of the few U.S. books using a full 20-cent line as a standard starting point. It is very, very, very important to shop around for the best prices you can find on games and props. It can help you cut down on losses and maximize wins, especially over a big sample size of games.

There are a lot of other things that I will evaluate internally and keep to myself. My volume was certainly higher this season than last, which probably wasn’t the right course of action given how the season went. I’ve also noticed that over the last two seasons of writing the daily piece here at VSiN, April has been my best month by far, which is hardly surprising. I do a lot more research than most. It also tells me that I’m not adjusting properly in-season or reading the stats and markets the right way.

With that, I’ll openly say that I have no plays for today, but will write up some games for those interested. I will be writing up the playoff series on Monday and also have breakdowns and picks throughout the postseason, though volume will likely be down, as I’ll talk a lot about looking for live betting spots that may or may not come to fruition.

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Here are some thoughts on the September 30 card (odds from DraftKings):

Miami Marlins (-148, 9) at Pittsburgh Pirates

Miami may not need to worry about that ninth inning in Queens on Monday and I wonder if they’d just forfeit the game if they have a playoff spot locked up. The Cubs and Reds have struggled throughout September and Miami has put a little bit of cushion in that race to the point where the Marlins could secure a berth as early as today.

JT Chargois will open in front of Bryan Hoeing, as the Marlins take their swings against Quinn Priester. Hoeing allowed nine runs on 10 hits over just three innings last time out, so a good outing from him is far from a guarantee. But, Priester has allowed at least four runs in all but two of his nine appearances, so the Marlins should be able to keep the bats working.

I’m mostly just curious to see what happens on Monday because Miami should have a playoff spot locked up today or tomorrow.

Chicago Cubs (-120, 9) at Milwaukee Brewers

This has been a disappointing stretch for the Cubs, who were in control of their own destiny and now need a ton of help. At least there have been a lot of individual bright spots, including Jordan Wicks, who has a 3.00 ERA with a 3.33 xERA and a 3.95 FIP in six starts over 33 innings. The 24-year-old takes the ball in a big spot here for the Cubbies. He’s allowed no more than three runs in any of his six starts and that may be enough for the Cubs to put themselves in position to win and stay alive.

Southpaw Eric Lauer goes for the Brewers, as he’ll make his first MLB start since May 20. Lauer allowed 31 runs on 45 hits in 42.2 innings before battling injury and spending time in the minors. Over 44.2 innings at the minor league level, Lauer had a 5.04 ERA. For a guy who saw a big velo uptick last season and had a 3.69 ERA with a 4.02 xERA and a 4.50 FIP, the way his season transpired this year was a little bit surprising. I think there’s a lot of self-imposed pressure on him in this start, as he heads into arbitration and may very well end up with a lower number in contract negotiations than he did last season.

I think this is a decent matchup for the Cubs, especially because the Brewers are one of those teams I mentioned that will be monitoring the workloads of key guys. We’ll see who gets today off and who gets tomorrow off, but I would be surprised to see a full Milwaukee lineup both days.

Cincinnati Reds (-135, 9) at St. Louis Cardinals

The Reds poured it on last night with a 19-1 win, as the only highlight for St. Louis was an Adam Wainwright salute and subsequent ground out. The Reds probably won’t make the playoffs, but getting Connor Phillips up to the big leagues before season’s end was a big organizational win, even if it came as a result of COVID. Phillips has allowed 13 runs on 18 hits in 20.2 innings, but he has hung in there as a 22-year-old rookie who started the season in Double-A.

Phillips is a big piece for a team that clearly needs rotation help and all of these September starts have been good for his development.

The same is true of the other youngster on the mound in Drew Rom, who was part of the Jack Flaherty trade with the Orioles. With Flaherty and Jordan Montgomery gone, plus Wainwright’s retirement, the Cardinals have to soak up some innings. I think free agency is how they’ll have to do it, as Rom has struggled to a 7.98 ERA and a 6.48 xERA with a 5.84 FIP in his seven starts over 29.1 innings. All reps are good reps, though Rom has not had his K% numbers from the minors translate over and his BB% has remained high.

The Reds should take care of business here with what I think is a big pitching advantage and with all the injuries to the Cardinals lineup, but you never know, as all the pressure is on Cincinnati to stay alive in the Wild Card hunt.

Los Angeles Dodgers (-175, 8) at San Francisco Giants

Is this the final regular season start in the illustrious career of Clayton Kershaw? The southpaw has had a really tough season on the health front and is reportedly dealing with a shoulder issue that is less about healing and more about management. Kershaw is still remarkably valuable over the 125ish innings that he has given in each of the last three seasons, but the 35-year-old’s got over 2,700 regular season innings on that shoulder, plus postseason outings.

The Giants are in a really weird place because they fired manager Gabe Kapler. This looked like a .500 team on paper coming into the season and played to that expectation by using a bunch of openers and a variety of bulk relievers. The lineup wasn’t great and one of the worst in the second half.

Replacing Bruce Bochy was never going to be easy and a very, very smart executive in Farhan Zaidi got to handpick Kapler. Kapler is a fitness freak and a true numbers guy, so I think there may be some disconnects between Kapler and the players. There may be some issues with his bedside manner, if you will. It’s hard to bring in a numbers guy as manager because those analytics are very prevalent in the game and it is ultimately a results business, but it is a people business in that clubhouse and that’s probably where the Giants felt like things went wrong.

San Francisco lost yesterday without Kapler and will probably do so again today, but firing a manager right before the final series is a pretty loud message and not even wanting three more days with Kapler has probably polarized the team a bit.

Tampa Bay Rays at Toronto Blue Jays (-142, 8.5)

The Blue Jays still haven’t punched a postseason ticket yet, so they still have a lot to play for today against the Rays. It will be a Shawn Armstrong open and likely a Cooper Criswell bulk, but there is incentive for the Rays to keep all their relievers fresh, as some guys have only worked once this week. I assume the goal over the next two days is to keep everybody as sharp as possible.

Meanwhile, the Jays are sending out Hyun Jin Ryu after he allowed five runs on seven hits to the Rays last time out. It was the first time since his season debut on August 1 that Ryu allowed more than three runs. He also allowed three homers in that start after allowing six in his previous nine starts.

The Rays and Blue Jays are likely to play in the Wild Card Round this week and they are division rivals, so there aren’t many secrets, but I wonder how that factors into Tampa Bay’s usage in the remainder of this series.

Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles (-130, 8)

We got an extreme hangover lineup from the O’s on Friday and they got shut out by Nick Pivetta and the Red Sox. We’ll see who plays today for Kyle Gibson vs. Kutter Crawford. The Red Sox are still just playing out the string, but so is Baltimore at this point, as they’re locked into a bye and the No. 1 seed in the AL.

Games like this are why I don’t like betting the last week, and especially the last weekend, of the season. I just can’t see an angle one way or another to support either side, even though the line is reasonable. Boston has been mostly checked out, so maybe Baltimore decides to go towards the postseason on a high note, but that’s merely speculation and not rooted in anything tangible.

New York Yankees (-135, 9.5) at Kansas City Royals

Clarke Schmidt and Steven Cruz are listed here, with Cruz as the opener for Alec Marsh. The Yankees pen was forced to wear one yesterday, as Carlos Rodon didn’t record a single out with eight batters faced. He allowed six hits and two walks. It was not a good finale for Rodon in what was a complete throwaway season, but an expensive one for the Yankees to endure.

Schmidt has been a real big positive for the team and the Yankees can secure a winning record with a victory today. If I was betting today’s card, this is probably the game I would isolate, since Marsh has a 5.66 ERA with a 5.85 xERA and a 5.90 FIP, though he has only allowed eight runs in his last four appearances over 18 innings.

Texas Rangers at Seattle Mariners (-142, 7.5)

Let’s head to Rangers/Mariners, where Texas just can’t make it easy on themselves. The blown save loss on Friday coupled with yesterday’s 8-0 beatdown have made things really interesting in the AL West and in the Wild Card. And, now, the Mariners will send out Luis Castillo at home against Andrew Heaney. To make matters worse, it will be Cody Bradford on Sunday, so the Rangers are up against it a bit here.

Castillo gets a lot of market love at home with a 2.81 ERA and a .188 BA against with a .260 wOBA against. He’s been nothing short of brilliant at home and the markets know it. That’s been true of all of his time at T-Mobile Park since joining the Mariners last season.

Meanwhile, Heaney has been a reliever for the Rangers with six straight relief appearances, topping out at 3.2 innings on September 10. This is more of a Johnny Wholestaff game and Heaney doesn’t really have a lot of confidence from Bochy and the coaching staff, so they’ll pull the plug quickly if they need to, which puts additional strain on the pen.

The Rangers are not going into the playoffs on a high note and have had a really weird second half. I don’t like the vibe I’m feeling right now with this team and all of their Jekyll and Hyde games.

San Diego Padres (-148, 8.5) at Chicago White Sox

The Padres got eliminated from playoff contention yesterday and Mike Clevinger has been throwing the ball really well, so this may be a game you want to take a longer look at for Saturday. After allowing eight runs to the Tigers on September 2, Clevinger has allowed a total of five runs in his last four starts. He also hasn’t walked anybody in 35.1 innings of work, which is a big part of San Diego’s offense.

The tough part here is whether or not the White Sox are able to hit Michael Wacha, who has a solid 3.39 ERA with a 4.01 FIP in 127.1 innings of work. I guess Padres Team Total Under 4.5 or 1st 5 Team Total Under 2.5 (it is -145 at DK) could be viable betting options if you don’t trust the Chicago offense. And it’s not like the Chicago offense has given us much of a reason to trust them.

Houston Astros (-125, 9) at Arizona Diamondbacks

Money has hit the board on the Astros pretty heavily for this one, as bettors are more excited to back Justin Verlander than Merrill Kelly. Verlander shoved against the Mariners last time out with one run allowed over eight stellar innings and maybe the sentiment is that he’ll do the same in another big spot today. He certainly has a much bigger name than Kelly, even though I think Kelly is still a really good pitcher in his own right.

Kelly has had a couple of recent blow-ups and maybe those are impacting the market perception here. Kelly has a 2.70 ERA at home compared to a 4.07 ERA on the road and his wOBA against is just .259 at home compared to .332 on the road. I think he’s being a little bit disrespected here. That said, if he does go on the road for a start in the Wild Card series, I may look to go against him. He’s had issues working deep into games and the D-Backs pen worries me, along with these splits.

TL;DR Recap

No bets.